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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 29 February 2012
This review relates to the Kindle version of Jason and the Golden Fleece: I say this in case anyone is unaware of Amazon's bad habit of aggregating the reviews for all versions of a book, and sometimes for different translations. This is unhelpful if you are interested in finding the best translation or in how well a book has been digitised for Kindle. This particular case is more serious, as it specifically claims to be the Oxford World's Classics version translated by Richard Hunter, but it is NOT. Neither the translator nor OUP are mentioned, the introduction is quite different, and judging by the content it is a very much older translation, probably out of copyright. I realised in time to have it removed for a refund, but buyer beware! It appears that the real Oxford World's Classics version is not available on Kindle.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
This is a review of the Oxford World Classics edition of 1998, originally published in 1993. It has been translated and edited by Richard Hunter.

As usual with classic texts, I disregarded Hunter's introduction, vowing to read it after I had read Apollonius's words first. Instead, I went straight to the three maps supplied and was straightaway surprised. For someone like me who comes to the work after having watched avidly as a child (and many times thereafter as an adult) the Harryhausen movie of 1963, I was curious and intrigued to see the maps depicting Jason's return journey from Colchis by a roundabout route via the Danube, Croatia, Lombardy, Provence, Corfu, Libya, and Crete.

"The `Argonautica' is a difficult poem" is Hunter's opening and daunting remark in his preface, perhaps referring to his translation rather than problems for the reader. He continues, "Nevertheless, its importance within ancient literary history is not in doubt, even for those who do not actually like it."

First of all, the prospective reader should be assured that the text is presented in prose form. The first eight pages are indeed, not `difficult' as such, but a chore, a listing of names, ancestry, place of origin, and claim to fame. I'm not sure that the content of Hunter's endnotes makes matters easier for the reader. (Indeed, since there are quite a number of notes per page - seven on the first alone - footnotes would have been better.)

But after sailing, the text of the journey starts to flows in a jerking rhythm. Soon we arrive at Lemnos, where all the women have murdered the males - husbands, fathers, and sons - and now seek to `combine' with the Argonauts to repopulate their society. Hardly Hollywood material! As we continue I concluded that the `poem' was not a bad read at all, especially if the reader imagines the narrative, like Homer's, as an oral tale being relayed in a social setting.

It was interesting to compare the text with the movie. In the tale Jason is blond, but Phineus and the Harpies appear (and are actually dealt with better in the book than in the film), as do the clashing rocks at the Bosphorus (again with notable differences from the film), and it is Athena (not Hera) who graces the ship with her protection.

At the end of the third of the four books that comprise Apollonius's tale, Jason has defeated the "earth-born warriors" grown from the seed of the dragon's teeth, but this occurs before Jason obtains the fleece, using guile rather than heroics. Jason does not have to defeat the guarding dragon, for Medea does it for him: "As it rolled towards them, the maiden fixed it in the eye and called in a lovely voice upon Sleep, the helper, the highest of the gods, to bewitch the beast."

The fourth and final book details the wonderings of the Argonauts on their way home. Because Jason and Medea murder under the guise of negotiation Medea's brother Apsyrotos, who is chasing them, Zeus is not pleased. The god proposes that the Argonauts endure "numberless sufferings" before reaching home. Thus they have to face the Sirens, Scylla and Charybdis, and the bronze warrior Talos only appears towards the end of the book rather than towards the beginning of the film. We are spared the subsequent details of Jason's and Medea's tragic relationship, as Apollonius's work ends before this.

Hunter's twenty-two page introduction provides the reader with what little is known of Apollonius the man. He then places the poem in the context of Alexandrian poetry and its interaction with the Argo references of Callimachus and Theocritus. Hunter then writes of the story itself - its background ("Aspects of the Argonautic story have been told many times in Greek poetry before Apollonius"), context, and differences from other versions.

Hunter remarks how, "The story of Jason falls into a familiar pattern of `initiation quest' in which a young man must succeed in terrible challenges before claiming his rightful inheritance." He later points out how Apollonius constantly engages in a "dialogue with the Homeric texts", most notably of course with `The Odyssey'. Hunter ends with a few paragraphs on Apollonius's influence on later Roman poets, most notably - it goes without saying - Virgil's `Aeneid'.

The book comes with a bibliography and an index, useful for all the names that appear in the text.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2012
As has been mentioned before, the 'Kindle edition' here is not the Oxford World Classics version. It is in fact a ripped-off version of R. C. Seaton's 1912 translation of the Argonautica written for the Loeb Classical Library (the very first Loeb volume). The translation is old-fashioned and far worse than the real Oxford World Classics translation of Richard Hunter, Jason and the Golden Fleece (The Argonautica) (Oxford World's Classics), my preferred version. Even within the Loeb Classical Library, Seaton's edition has been replaced, a new and improved edition and translation of the Argonautica by William H. Race having been out for a couple of years. Better to get this Seaton text from Project Gutenberg from where it's no doubt been taken from (without acknowledgement) than give money to these 'publishers', who don't even acknowledge the translator's name. It's about time that Amazon linked paper and Kindle volumes only when by the same publisher.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on 7 February 2005
I bought this book out of curiosity after having been a big fan of the Ray Harryhausen 'Jaon and the Argonauts' movie for many years. It's surprisingly readable and provides a whole host of mythological wonders and scenarios for the heroes to overcome. The introduction and notes are excellent. The references to Greek mythology and culture in this text are great, but they're more than adequetely explained by the notes (you do need to keep your thumb in the back section as you're reading). I read this purely for interest in Mythology, but I was surprised to find the story becomes quite gripping, particularly toward the end. Overall, a big thumbs up to both Apollonius and Richard Hunter.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon 16 February 2010
Written in the C3rd BCE Apollonius' Argonautica revisits and revises Homeric epic and takes a cynical look at the concept of heroism. Here Jason is frequently at a loss, only manages the heroic task through a combination of magic and Medea, and ends up murdering a pursuer - a far cry from either the warlike Achilles or the resourceful Odysseus of epic past.

While being immensely-literarily learned (as is the case with other Hellenistic literature) this is still a good read: full of wonders, magic, adventures and exotic set pieces. But a sense of both past versions of these stories (Euripides' Medea, and his Andromache for the future of the marriage between Peleus and Thetis) as well as future texts which deliberately recall Apollonius (Catullus' c.64, Vergil's Aeneid for another version of the epic hero in Aeneas, and even another Medea in Dido) contextualise this text far better than reading it in isolation.

But even if you're not interested in its literary place, it's still a great mythic tale, well told.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 19 December 2010
The Penguin Epics snippet from The Voyage of the Argo by Apollonius of Rhodes is superb. Jason and the Golden Fleece retells the narrative from the Argonauts arrival at the kingdom of Amycus through to Jason's completion of the task set by the keeper of the Fleece, Aeetes. The tale is everything that could be asked for from an Epic - the action is terrific, the romance believable and emotional, and the historical setting vividly conjured.

One of the elements of Jason that works well is that it is not just about the lead character. A few of the Argonauts crop up regularly and while Jason is clearly the lead hero, his is a band of followers that merit their own characters. As they are not faceless, their actions and roles impact on the rest of the team. The deaths of two characters early on in this snippet plunges the Argonauts into grief. Too often elsewhere, the death of a comrade has no real meaning but here such depth of feeling demonstrates a kinship worth being a part of.

The action sequences are great from the very beginning of the snippet when Argonaut Polydeuces takes on King Amycus in a boxing match. While this is not a blow-by-blow account, it is a great rendition of martial sport told by a writer who clearly understood what he was talking about. Apollonius is also wise to include the gods but to not deliver them an automaticity in that they too are striving for success. This is a useful reminder of the Greek understanding of the world in that reliance on divine intervention alone could not be enough for success.

Romance is not always easy but Apollonius hits some terrific notes between Medea and Jason. His depiction of the passion that Medea holds within her after Eros has hit her with love's arrow is highly believable. Medea finds herself in a very familiar female quandry - the powerful but dangerous stranger is the person she is drawn to. The steps she takes to move from the obligation she has to her family and the self-doubt it inspires make for such a rich and impressive character. The conflict between loyalty and love makes each step of her rebellion a difficult choice for Medea. To a great extent Medea is the star of this particular snippet.

The morality of Jason is relatively simple. Good deeds performed without desire for personal gain are rewarded while the arrogant are not. The soothsayer Phineus is the embodiment of this. It transpires that he slightly arrogantly took his foresight too far and failed to show due respect to Zeus who punished him harshly. He was otherwise a good man and the Argonauts provide him with the greatest reward which is release from his curse. One other character who had supported Phineus prior to the Argonauts arrival is also rewarded.

With any epic, the place and culture matter just as much as the tale and the key at the back of the book helps slightly though it would still require further information to really get to grips with where and who. The snippet does though get the balance right between having enough names to capture the imagination without delving into lists. Apollonius gives lineage to most characters and the places he describes are identifiable enough to be traceable for a modern reader. Older legends are touched on such as the battles between the gods for supremacy as well as tales from the outer reaches of Greek knowledge such as the Caucasian mountains. This is an old tale though and it is really fascinating to catch glimpses of people that affect later stories.

Jason and the Golden Fleece is a snippet from the epic and the only negative that can truly be felt is that it leaves the reader wanting the rest.
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on 28 September 2015
The intro was unnecessarily long and complex such that I found it discouraging at times to read the actual story. I kept picking up the book reading a couple of pages thru the intro and then put it back down again. Took me a few days to struggle thru the introduction. But once thru it then it was OK.
I hate eating a bad meal and I hate spending my time with a so so book. Now matter how many meals you eat or books you read thru your lifetime, they are both still a finite numbers and not to be wasted. In the end I am glad I stuck thru the intro
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 11 March 2006
Having seen the Jason London movie many years earlier, his face stuck in my mind as the hero for most part of reading this book. This beats the classical mythology canon in Apollonius' shorter, less convoluted and more modern plot, being written some 700 years after Homer. Although the actual mythological plotline is a much older tale than the story of Troy.
I enjoyed this story immensely, and wrote my final essay on the book. It reads much like an adventure/travel story among the hero and his friends, on a voyage to locate/redeem the Golden Fleece. They travel through the Mediterranean and ancient parts of Greece, Europe and Africa, emerging from obstacles and dangers, including the famous crashing rocks. Not withstanding the story's ancience and style of writing, it could easily be adapted to a modern movie setting, or children's flick like 'The Treasure Planet'.
The fourth and final chapter, with the entrance of Medea and her falling for Jason is a classical love story of its times. Read Euripides' 'Medea' to get the more gory, alternative ending to this mythological (happier) tale when Medea and Jason get married, some 10 years down the line.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2013
This is not a book for those who just want to know the story of Jason. It does tell the story, but I suspect that is is targeted more to those who are studying the classics, so it is a bit of a hard slog.
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